Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Sin is what you do or neglect to do that increases the distance between you and God and you and others. Short-term sin may seem like a good idea. Long-term sin is never a good idea. Sin, sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly, destroys the core of the sinner. Paul pretty much says the same thing: “The wages of sin is death.” –Romans 6:23

“Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is hurtful.” –Benjamin Franklin 

She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. –John 8:11 

“Should we all confess our sins to one another we would all laugh at one another for our lack of originality.” -Kahlil Gibran 

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. –James 4:17 

“Sin is whatever obscures the soul.” –Andre Gide 

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. –Matthew 5:28 

“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” –Henry Ward Beecher 

As our sin increases; God’s grace increases even more. –Romans 5:21 

“Men are not punished for their sins, but by them.” –Elbert Hubbard

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Suffering : Sufficiency

Listen to the audio of my sermon from this morning on suffering and sufficiency. We should have the video up in a few days.

Here are some highlights.

When we wake up in the morning, we choose our attitude. The way we see the world shapes our lives.

Both the pessimist and the optimist know – we live in a complex and complicated world. Bad things and good things happen.

The world is full of pain. The world is also full of people conquering their pain. Short-term pain in life is inevitable. Long-term suffering in life is optional.

Sometimes there is a reason for suffering and sometimes there is no reason for suffering.

We want to believe the world makes senses and that a logical cause and effect exists for everything that happens. But life doesn’t work that way. If you don’t believe me, read the newspaper. 

Sin happens.
Floods happen.
Death happens.
Disease happens.
Relational dysfunction happens.
Economic recession happens.
Hurt happens.
Depression happens.
Despair happens.

Sometimes there is a reason for suffering and sometimes there is no reason for suffering.

Our pain can be because of our poor choices.
Our pain can be because of the poor choices of others.
Our pain can happen for absolutely no reason at all.

God is not the cause of our pain.
God wants to be present with us in our pain.

Some things…only God can do. 

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

The thing that God can do that no other can do is give God’s grace.

Paul experienced pain. Most likely it was headaches or epilepsy. 

The vine clings to the oak during the fiercest of storms. Although the violence of nature may uproot the oak, twining tendrils still cling to it. If the vine is on the side opposite the wind, the great oak is its protection; if it is on the exposed side, the tempest only presses it closer to the trunk. In some of the storms of life, God intervenes and shelters us; while in others He allows us to be exposed, so that we will be pressed more closely to Him and allow God to do what only God can do – give us his grace.

Suffering gets our attention. It forces us to look to God.

Suffering also forces us to look within.

Our response to pain and adversity will simultaneously reveal our current character and develop our future character. 

God can only help those who stop hurting themselves.

As I look back on my life, the greatest lessons have not been learned through success, but through suffering.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Greatness is born out of difficulty

Matthew 5:4-5

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Most of the Psalms were born in difficulty. 

Most of the Epistles were written in prisons. 

Florence Nightingale, too ill to move from her bed, reorganized the hospitals of England. 

Semiparalyzed, Pasteur was tireless in his attack on disease.

In 1962, a research study of 413 "famous and exceptionally gifted people" called Cradles of Eminence. The researchers spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people's lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.

Saying "yes" to the possibility of love is saying "yes" to the possibility of suffering. Attempting to avoid suffering is also avoiding love. Avoiding love is the cruelest form of suffering that exists.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Acts: Bible Reading Plan

We are staring our new Sermon Series and Bible Reading Plan this Sunday. We will read though the Book of Acts and investigate nine holy words that start with the letter "s".

In about five to ten minutes per day, you can read through the entire New Testament in one year. If you didn’t start on January 1st, start today. Stay consistent and make focused Bible reading a daily habit. 

Read the selected chapter each day. 

Spend some time in prayer reflecting on how God spoke to you through the reading. 

Read the study guide for the day you are on to dig a little deeper into a few selected verses. 

Respond to the questions and prayer guides as you apply the biblical teachings to your life. 

By the end of this week we will have read through Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Timothy, 1 Thessalonians, James, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John.

Sunday, June 5th – Acts 1 – Sabbath : Sanctuary : Simple

Simple means pure and uncluttered. It means having time to do things that are important. Reread verse 8. What is one of the priorities God desires for you? Think about what a witness does in a courtroom. He or she tells the story they have experienced. Pray about who you can share God’s story / your story with today.

Monday, June 6th – Acts 2

A simple life is one where priorities can be lived out. Clutter reduces time and energy for priorities. Reread verses 42 to 47. Look at the priorities of the people in the early church: Hanging out together, sharing life, worshipping God, praying, learning together, and serving people. What are some things you can say “no” to in life so that you can say “yes” to your priorities. Pray for God’s priorities to be your priorities.

Tuesday, June 7th – Acts 3

Rest is essential in life. It is enjoyable and makes times of stress more manageable. Reread verse 19. Peter is urging repentance. Repentance means to turn from sin to love. To turn from self to God. Layers of sin and selfishness will weigh us down and force us to carry burdens than God doesn’t want us to carry. Think about the sin and selfishness in your life that is making your life cluttered and complicated. Pray for God to remove this sin from your life so that you may experience rest and purity.

Wednesday, June 8th – Acts 4

Material possessions make our life complicated. People need some possessions to survive and enjoy life, but we live in a culture of excess. Acquiring God’s creation is not the purpose of life. A relationship with God is the purpose of life. Reread verses 32 to 37. Note how possessions (verse 33) didn’t provide for a person’s deepest need: grace. God provides that. Pray for two things: 1) the desire to share your possessions and 2) the desire to receive God’s grace.

Thursday, June 9th – Acts 5

Sanctuary is a holy and safe space. Solomon’s Porch was a special place for the apostles. It was an environment where they experienced the love of God and the love of each other. Where are the spaces and places in your life where you can experience the love of God and the love of others? Make an effort to get to these spaces on a regular schedule.

Friday, June 10th – Acts 6

Verses 1 to 7 are a wonderful example of how to say “no”. The Greeks complained to the apostles that the widows were being neglected. Instead of going to feed the widows, the apostles send others to care for them while they remained in the ministry of the Word. Who and what do you need to say “no” to so that you can say “yes” to who and what are most important?

Saturday, June 11th – Acts 7

Acts 7 is the story of Stephen. He gave his life for the Gospel. No compromises or fears. Simple can also mean pure and not complex. Note Stephen’s purity and passion for the Lord. Pray for the passion and purity of Stephen.

Sunday, June 12th – Acts 8 – Suffering : Sufficiency

Reread verses 28 and 29. Note what happened. Peter was reading the Bible when the Holy Spirit spoke to him. The Holy Spirit can speak to us whenever, but we are most likely going to hear God’s voice when we are reading the Bible. Stick with the Bible reading plan and be open to hearing God’s voice.

Monday, June 13th – Acts 9

Suffering is never pleasant at the time. But God can do things in our life when we are suffering that simply can’t happen during times of prosperity and health. Paul lost his vision. He suffered. But because of his suffering, he was able to do things he would not have been able to do if he hadn’t suffered. Think about times you have suffered. How have these times helped you grow and be of more usefulness to God and others? Pray that your painful life experiences can be used in the future to help yourself and others.

Tuesday, June 14th – Acts 10

Sufficiency is receiving what we need. Note Peter’s confession in verses 39 to 43. He clearly states one of the central themes of the Bible: the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is one of the things we need. Pray for forgiveness of self, forgiveness from others, and for God’s forgiveness.

Wednesday, June 15th – Acts 11

When we are suffering it is easy to believe we are alone. That God doesn’t care and that nobody understands. Reread verse 21. The persecuted and suffering people were scattered, but God remained with them. Know that when they need God the most, God remains with us. God is not going to leave us in our time of suffering. Pray to more fully experience more of God’s presence in your life.

Thursday, June 16th – Acts 12

Peter was in prison. He was in chains and suffering. Reread verse 7. God freed Peter from his chains. Peter then got up and left. Part of Peter’s freedom depended on God and part depended on Peter. Think about the healing that needs to happen in your life. What part of the healing is your responsibility?

Friday, June 17th – Acts 13

Paul and Barnabas didn’t have an easy life. They worked hard, sometimes didn’t see many positive results, and sometimes were belittled and persecuted. They suffered. Reread verse 52 and note God gives them sufficiency: joy and the Holy Spirit. They didn’t seek power, control, and the approval. They did receive something much better: joy and the Holy Spirit. Pray for joy and the Holy Spirit in your present situation, whatever that situation is.

Saturday, June 18th – Acts 14

Suffering is a part of life. Paul was busy doing God’s work. Then the Jews from Antioch threw rocks at Paul and almost killed him. Paul didn’t sit around complaining or being sad, he got up and did more of God’s work. (verses 19 and 20) Pray for the ability to persevere through tough times.

Sunday, June 19th – Acts 15 – Surrender : Servant

Paul and Barnabas were both servants who lived surrendered lives. Reread verse 36. Note their compassion and commitment to people. Pray for God to give you compassion for people, a willingness to serve others, and to live a life surrendered to God.

Monday, June 20th – Acts 16

Paul and Silas didn’t just serve God in their spare time or just when times were good. They served God at all times. Reread verses 25 to 31. They even served God in prison. Many of us have busy lives. Pray for the ability to serve God where we are and to serve others we interact with.

Tuesday, June 21st – Acts 17

Athens contained many idols. (verse 16) Paul was preaching the one true God. Modern day America contains many idols as well. Idols that are rivals to God. Pray for idols such as materialism, power, selfishness, and technology to diminish in your life and for the one true God to increase in your life.

Wednesday, June 22nd – Acts 18

The promise God gave Paul in verses 9 and 10 is a promise God has given and will always give His people: “Do not be afraid, I am with you.” As we seek to serve God with greater frequency and intensity, in what ways does it help to know that God is with us?

Thursday, June 23rd – Acts 19

Paul had some good experiences in Ephesus and some not-so-good experiences in Ephesus. But he was always a servant. List five traits Paul displayed in chapter 19. Pray for these traits to be developed in your life.

Friday, June 24th – Acts 20

A surrendered servant gives radically. Reread verse 35. What does this verse say about giving? Think of how you can give generously and radically to others with your resources, time, and energy. Then give. Keep track of how God is blessing you through giving to others. 

Saturday, June 25th – Acts 21

Paul was winning to give his life to serve the Gospel. Verses 12 to 14 show the lengths Paul was ready to go to for the Gospel. The Gospel demands not part of our lives but all of our lives. How much are you willing to give to the Gospel?

Sunday, June 26th – Acts 22 – Sin : Salvation

Paul’s early life was corrupted by sin. Reread verses 4 and 5. Paul did not let his past sin define his future. Think about sin in your past. Does this define you? Pray for the ability to accept God’s forgiveness and to live out a future that isn’t defined by your past, but by God’s promises.

Monday, June 27th – Acts 23

Healing is another word for salvation. Paul’s present human condition was grim: He was on trail for his life. Spiritually he received healing and salvation. Reread verse 6. His hope was not in escaping human punishment. His hope was in the resurrection of the dead. It is so easy to get caught up in thinking only about this world. How does Paul’s eternal view challenge you?

Tuesday, June 28th – Acts 24

Paul notes in verse 15 about the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. Salvation under Christ is not earned, but given. It’s not just for the good people, but to all who believe in the resurrection. Pray to accept God’s gift of salvation that saves us from our sins.

Wednesday, June 29th – Acts 25

Paul was being tried not for something he did, but for who he was and what he believed. This happens to us in life. Note Paul’s response. He didn’t think less of himself or change his beliefs. He embraced who he was and trusted in God. What lessons can we learn from Paul?

Thursday, June 30th – Acts 26

Paul recalled an earlier conversation with Jesus. In this conversation, Jesus spoke of Paul’s sin in verse 15. He spoke of salvation in verses 17 and 18. Sin is what separates us from God and salvation is what restores us to God. Pray for restoration and healing in your relationship with God.

Friday, July 1st – Acts 27

Keep up your courage. Paul said that in verses 22 and 25. He was speaking to men on a ship who were in a storm. We all go through storms of life. We generally get to choose whether we overcome the storm or if the storm overcomes us. When in the storms of life, keep up your courage, and overcome the storms.

Saturday, July 2nd – Acts 28

Acts is concluded with Paul teaching about salvation. He notes the power of repentance. We turn and God heals. (verse 27) It is available to all. (verse 29) Take some time praying. Turn from sin and turn to God. Expect God to heal you and offer you grace!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Simple: Free of complications and clutter 

Simplifying means eliminating the unnecessary and urgent so we can focus on the necessary and enjoy the important. Many of us cannot focus on the necessary and enjoy the important because our lives are simply too complicated. Eliminate clutter. Eliminate it in your garage, your closet, your office, and your kitchen. And eliminate it in your finances, your relationships, and your spirituality. 

Complicated: Containing intricately combined or involved parts. 
Clutter: A confused or disordered state or collection.

Complicated and cluttered lives prevent us from doing the necessary and enjoying the important. We can choose complicated and cluttered or we can choose to de-complicate and de-clutter so that we can spend our time, energy, and resources doing the things we want to do with the people we want to do them with. 

De-complicating and de-cluttering is simple, but not easy. It means discovering and indentifying what and who is most important and then eliminating everything else. The simple part is discovering and identifying. The not easy part is eliminating.

Just say a simple, “Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.” –Jesus in Matthew 5:37 

Jesus was aware of the power of saying “no”. His aim in life was not to please people. His aim in life was loving God and loving people. 

Saying “no” is essential to eliminating complication and clutter. Saying “yes” to the unimportant and unnecessary is essentially saying “no” to the important. The best has become cluttered and complicated by the average, the mediocre, and even the good. All of us need to say “no” to various habits, things, and people: Maybe it’s television, anger, consumerism, smart phones, over-committing our time and energy, lust, social media, co-dependent relationships, unhealthy relationships, gadgets, materialism, selfishness, unresolved conflict, debt, image management, unfulfilled dreams, addictions, regrets, failures, unforgiveness, guilt, and low self-esteem.

“Purity of heart is to will one thing.” -Sören Kierkegaard 

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. –Jesus in Matthew 6:33 

Complications and clutter can also prevent us from experiencing or more fully experiencing God’s grace. We believe the constant barrage of messages the world sends us about happiness rather than trusting in God’s provision of joy. We confuse idle busyness with God’s purposes and eternal significance. We strive to be self-sufficient instead of dependent upon God. We seek God’s creation instead of God Himself. 

De-complicate. De-clutter. Focus. Enjoy. Relate. Live. Love. 

By de-complicating and de-cluttering, the best is yet to come…